Advice and guidance on repair and restoration techniques.
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A beginners' guide to changing reel strips

Postby coppinpr » Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:37 pm

A new set of strips for a Mills "7-7-7" machine I'm working on arrived today from Mr Slot in the US so I set about removing the old strips and fitting the new. It occurred to me that this seemingly simple procedure is in fact harder than you think if you're a beginner and there are a few tricks and tips that can make it much easier. We have had a lot of new members who say they are new to the hobby of late, so I decided to write this beginners' guide as I fitted the new strips. The powers that be can decide where on the forum it should be poked away.

Fitting new strips sounds easy, and in fact it can be, if you prepare well and take a few precautions.

Many may disagree with my method, and they may be right, but this definitely works. This guide refers to a Mills mech but holds true for most standard mechs using paper/card strips. It assumes there are old strips on the mech. If they are not, you will need to align the jackpot payout holes then load the strips to that position or use the strip align hole on the payout discs to set all three reels in the correct position.

(1) Remove the money box coin shoot from the front to allow easier access to the third reel.
(2) Part cycle the mech stopping the fan with a cloth leaving the reels free to turn.
(3) Mark the start point of the first reel strip on the edges of the crimp tins.
(4) Using a thin screwdriver or knife, un-crimp the first reel strip making sure not to miss any crimped areas.
(5) Remove the first strip. The best way to do this is to simply ease it out, rather than sliding it round the reel. Rust and dirt will make it tear if you try to slide it out. Take care to keep the strip in one piece if possible and watch for added symbols coming adrift as you go. Not knowing where these came from can cause big problems later.
(6) Lay the old strip out next to the correct new one (they both should be numbered 1,2,3 or a,b,c). At this stage, check for any differences between the old and the new. Many machines, especially those used in the UK, will have had the payouts changed so the reel strips may well differ. The new set I'm using on this Mills machine came from Mr Slot in the USA and consisted of 4 strips, including an alternate reel 1 strip. This allowed me to cut symbols from the spare strip and make changes to the other three, bringing them in line with the old strips. Make any changes using double sided tape to attach any overlays. Cut the overlays very slightly smaller on the edge side so that the double thickness won't impede the new strip when you feed it into the channels on the reels. Make sure to put double sided tape on all four sides of the overlay so it doesn't come adrift during loading or use.
changing strips1.jpg
(7) Clean off any rust spots on the empty reel using sandpaper and wire wool. Doing this thoroughly at this stage will pay dividends when you come to load the new strip. Run a strip of sandpaper along the inside of the strip channel to make sure it's (a) open all round, (b) smooth and (c) clear of any pieces of the old strip.
empty reel.jpg
(8) Find the openings on the reel which act as the loading point for the new strip. Open the BOTTOM of the gap wider than the top, ready for the new strip.
loading gaps.jpg
(9) Slide the bottom of the new strip into the reel slots and slowly feed the strip into the reel, allowing it to slide round the reel. If you have prepared the reel correctly, it will slide effortlessly round until it reappears at the top and the blank extension tucks neatly under the top of the strip automatically.
loading strips.jpg
(10) IMPORTANT: Continue to advance the now fully loaded strip round the slot until the top of the strip lines up with the mark you made at the start to show where the top of the old strip was positioned.
(11) Lightly crimp the strip at this point, then remove the cloth stopping the fan and allow the mech to cycle through. Now check if the new strip lines up with the remaining old strips. Make any slight alignments and then crimp the new strip at several places round the reel, particularly where there is an overlay, at the start of the strip, and at the strip loading gaps. Note that the start of the strip is rarely at the point where the strip loading gaps are.
(12) Repeat the procedure for the other strips. Doing one at a time stops confusion of the strips and allows for better alignment.

Note that new strips may well be a different length to the old ones. If too short, they can be stretched using steam and a slight stretch. If too long, they should tuck into the back of the strip
strip lengths.jpg

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Re: A beginers guide to changing reel strips

Postby raj » Mon Oct 08, 2012 6:04 pm

A very comprehensive guide Coppinpr, a couple of things I would add, to consider. If the new strips are overlong, by putting the old strips back in the tins, the diameter will be increased slightly. I've printed some that were a little long and used a layer of double sided tape to pad out the tins a little. If changing symbols, I always do it with the strip in place and try to pick a series of symbols, rather than just one, and crimp under the edges rather than stick. Adhesive always seems to dry out and the lemon or whatever ends up in the bottom of the mech. Finally, scan your new strips before fitting, then you have a set of symbols for your next machine, or make a full set for yourself on photo paper. @&@

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Re: A beginners' guide to changing reel strips

Postby pennymachines » Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:23 pm

Thanks for that superb treatise. I'm sure many of us will be referring to it at some time. I've copied it over to Archive Restoration tips.

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Re: A beginners' guide to changing reel strips

Postby marktol » Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:02 pm

Great guide Paul,

I'm waiting for the new Golden Nugget strips I've ordered from Mr Slot, so if I decide to replace instead of patch then this will be of great use!


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Re: A beginners' guide to changing reel strips

Postby lance_07 » Thu Nov 21, 2013 4:15 am

Nice post !

Chris Rideout
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Re: A beginners' guide to changing reel strips

Postby Chris Rideout » Fri Apr 18, 2014 10:32 pm

I needed new reel strips on my Sega but I was unable to obtain them because some of the symbols were in the "wrong" place. Back in the 1970s, many of the 6d machines were converted to a shilling (5p) for two reasons. Firstly, inflation had doubled prices since the early 1960s and secondly, the 6d coin (2.5p) was likely to go out of circulation (which it did) in the middle to late 1970s.

So, machines were converted but the jackpots held fewer coins because the coins were bigger. This in turn reduced the payout percentages and symbols had to be juggled around to increase the output. My machine had the "80 per cent" reel strips from the Shefras organisation in Bethnal Green. You can't get them there now. Question: What could I do?

Answer: Print my own! I literally spent several hours during the week and most of my Sunday afternoons measuring the symbols, designing them on CorelDraw, matching the colours - very much trial and error, and printing them. There is no font for the word "BAR" and I have over 900 fonts on my PC! I had to scan the BAR and doctor up the closest match by adding serifs, etc. The gold star was a simple affair to design but the cherry was a real pain. All those pips on the melon took up some time as well. I just had to have them in the right place. The final results looked much better than the slightly discoloured ones I removed and the Hewlett Packard ink has been perfect.

On the Sega, the reel strips are 39 mm wide and the symbol spacing is 32 mm. I printed them on A4 paper which meant arranging 3 strips for each reel (8 + 8 + 4 for 20 symbols) and gluing them together. Next, I stuck a long piece of newspaper to the back of the strips to reinforce them and get the "postcard" thickness. For a final flourish, I sprayed glossy inkjet fixing spray over the symbols. The end result was very pleasing to say the least. My Sega celebrated its 50th birthday last August and it will probably live longer than me.

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